Timothy Astin, December 2017
Does this happen to you? Sometimes a song, or some poetry, pops into my head and I can’t work out how or why it got there. For some unfathomable reason this traditional nursery rhyme came into my head a few days ago and woudn’t go away:
Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man's hat
If you haven't got a penny, a ha’penny will do
If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you!
One Christmas, Moira and I thought it would be fun to cook a goose for Christmas instead of the usual turkey. This particular goose must have got vey fat, and our cooking skills weren’t equal to it. It was tasty, but goose fat was everywhere. It’s been turkey ever since.
That’s enough about the geese, Christmas is coming! I’m looking forward to finding out how CoGS celebrates Christmas across a wide range of services. Some of the most dramatic are the ones involving people lighting candles, perhaps with candlelight spreading through from person to person through the church. Candle flames are untamed, and variable. They give a warm glow, and also have a hint of danger and excitement about them. They give a picture of the presence of God, come in to the world in the person of Christ.
There remains much darkness in the world, and in the lives of many people. But Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, brings joy and hope. The true light is coming in to the world. So much of Christmas is designed to encourage happiness. There is special food and drink. There is the coming together with family and friends to show that we are loved. Presents are given to show that love, and to enrich the variety of life, even to help with a particular need.
So what about the old man’s hat? “Christmas is coming” is also a prompt to start preparing, and to focus on the season of Advent. The foodbank at St Matthew’s Redhill is one of our present day “old man’s hats”. This year they are suggesting following a “Reverse Advent Calendar”. Traditional advent calendars had those little windows to open with bible verses and pictures of the bible characters making their way towards Bethlehem. The chocolates of commercial advent calendars just don’t do it, do they?
So the “Reverse Advent Calendar” is to get a cardboard box, and place a food item into it each day. It’s like putting a penny into the old man’s hat. You can bring the box to church at Christmas, and it will go to the food bank. If you need food ideas that keep a long time, and are useful, there are lists in church or on the food bank website.
Now both you and I know why this rhyme bubbled up from the depths of my imagination. So all that remains is to complete its last line:
God bless you!